Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Scott A. Gustafson, Ph.D., ABPP

Second Advisor

Patrick J. Aragon, Psy.D.

Third Advisor

Theodore G. Petersen, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Robert A. Taylor, Ph.D.


Prevalence rates for child sexual abuse and substance use have often been difficult to determine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) estimated that one in four girls and one in thirteen boys experience childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in the United States. Similarly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2021) estimated that 58.7% of individuals over the age of 12 have used a substance in the last month. Despite the identification of both of these experiences as relatively common societal concerns, the impact of parental substance use on children and families has primarily been evaluated in a general context, and the impact of non-offending caregivers substance use on posttraumatic stress symptoms has yet to be examined. The current study builds upon the current literature by examining the role that non-offending caregiver substance use plays in posttraumatic stress symptoms of survivors of child sexual abuse.

The current study utilized data from clients of Florida Institute of Technology’s Family Learning Program (FLP). FLP is a sexual abuse treatment program utilizing evidence-based trauma-informed interventions such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). The dataset included 90 victim/non-offending caregiver combinations, for a total of 141 participants. Of the 141 participants, 64 (45.4%) were child/adolescent victims and 77 (54.6%) were non-offending caregivers. The study found no significant relationship between non-offending caregiver substance use and other variables measured (i.e., posttraumatic stress symptoms, parenting stress, intergenerational trauma). In addition, the effects of intergenerational trauma were evaluated as a secondary objective of this study. This study did not find a significant relationship between intergenerational trauma and posttraumatic stress symptoms; however, a significant relationship was identified between intergenerational trauma and parenting stress (t(88) = 1.69, p < .05). The results of this study have the potential to better inform clinical decisions and client conceptualizations.